Content Outsourcing Experiment #1: FiverrRed Flame is the owner of multiple web properties (though it doesn’t have much of a web presence at the moment), including the site you are looking at right now (Outsource Blog Content). Each site serves a different niche, which means that unique content must be created for all of the different sites.

Granted, some sites are currently getting a little more attention than others, because I can only focus on so many things at the same time. There are brands that I want to put more energy towards building right now, and there are others that already have a substantial archive of content. And then there are others that I’m not putting any energy into right now, but plan to later.

One of the sites Red Flame owns is a video game and movie review blog called AS Movies & Games. This site would fall under the “already has a substantial archive of content” category, but it still makes sense to push the occasional update to keep things fresh.

The AS Movies & Games Website

The AS Movies & Games website.

I recently watched the movie Elysium, and wanted to write a review about it. The issue was that it wasn’t a high priority. That’s when I decided to put our first content outsourcing experiment into motion. My goal was to find a writer on Fiverr and give them the task of writing the review.

Finding a Writer

Finding a writer on Fiverr did not prove terribly difficult. The main thing was to whittle down the candidates. There were those that were highly rated and keeping busy, which basically meant that they weren’t going to be able to get their deliverables done in a shorter period of time because of how many orders they were in the process of fulfilling.

Fiverr

On Fiverr, you can hire people to do a variety of different things for only $5.

I didn’t feel like waiting around forever for the post, so I didn’t go with anyone that had a longer waiting period.

The second criteria I had was post length. Most writers on Fiverr don’t appear to be doing more than 500 words, which is not surprising. I normally charge $10 per 100 words for my writing, so having to work on anything longer than that for such a small amount of money seems pretty crazy. However, that is kind of the neat thing about Fiverr.

With a little bit of searching, I was able to find a writer that did 600 word posts, did not have a longer queue, and was also highly rated. That’s where my search ended. I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time looking for the right service provider, as long as they could prove their eligibility with ratings as well as a well-written service description.

Ordering the Post

Fiverr gives you a couple of payment options, including PayPal (and Bitcoin I believe). PayPal was just fine with me, as I had recently received payment for some of the work I had rendered for a client.

After making the payment, I received a notification email confirming the purchase. This was followed by another email that said “Your action is required for order”. I had already specified the keyword (Elysium) as well as several simple instructions for the writer including:

  • On a scale of one 10, assume the review is an eight.
  • Tone of the post should be personal and funny.
  • Include a certain phrase when talking about the action of the movie (I ended up not using this phrase in the final review, as the writer could not make it fit).
  • The rest is up to you!

Anyway, I re-submitted this information to the writer just in case they didn’t get it the first time. I had initially submitted it before I got the email marked “Your action is required for order”.

As you can see, I didn’t exactly have stringent guidelines for the completion of this post. I was basically just looking for optimized content that would fit in with the tone of the site.

Delivery

The expected delivery time for the post was two days. As the deadline approached, I got a notice saying that the post would be delayed but should be completed by 7 PM EST of the same day.

So, while there was a little bit of a delay (maybe a few hours), I was willing to give a little bit of grace here. After all, what if the writer actually had to watch the movie (if they hadn’t already seen it) to be able to write a proper review? This is a $5 article, so you weren’t going to hear any complaints from me if the provider ended up having to put 109 minutes in to watch the movie, plus however long it would take for them to put their thoughts down into writing.

By the time I got home from work (at about 9 or 10 PM) the same day, sure enough, the article was ready. There were no further delays.

The Post

The post itself was reasonably good; not something I would publish without editing, but it adequately captured the spirit of what I was after.

The writer did not use headings to break up the post, so that was something I was going to have to put some thought towards. His thoughts weren’t entirely organized either, in the sense that he seemed to jump around from one topic to another. This is where providing established headings might have proved worthwhile.

Ultimately, I was already anticipating the need to edit, so I wasn’t heartbroken when the article wasn’t perfect.

Editing

The main challenge at the editing phase was trying to make the post into a cohesive, easily readable piece. I went through it about three or four times before arriving at a revision I was finally happy with.

In the end, it felt a bit like a collaborative process. The writer provided me with a post that I could have never written on my own. Together, we developed a post that neither of us could have written on our own. That was a pretty neat realization.

Once I finished editing, I put together a nice-looking header graphic, and formatted and scheduled the post. I decided to give myself a couple of days before publishing the piece, as I wanted to put a little bit of thought into marketing.

Elysium Review Header Graphic

Not bad, right?

Marketing

Marketing is where I decided to really put my noggin to work. I could have opted to publish the post and let it do its thing, but instead I decided that I really wanted to announce the return of AS Movies & Games, as it had been down for about a month while I was transitioning from one web host to another.

In addition, having spent money on the post (even though it was a mere $5), I wanted to get the most value I could out of it. Funny how paying for something increases its perceived value, huh?

In any case, this is the marketing checklist that I came up with:

Post Marketing Checklist

I ended up adding a lot of items to this list.

This was going to be a lot of work. I actually ended up adding a lot of items to this list as time went on, because more ideas started coming to me.

Email

The first thing I did was add an opt-in form on the post. My main sites already have signup forms on them, so this wasn’t anything new or revolutionary to me. However, I did end up doing a few things I had never tried before:

  • I used a red arrow graphic to draw attention to the signup form. It’s such a simple thing, but I couldn’t believe how much it drew me in when I looked at it.
  • I inserted the signup form within the post. I often use “After Entry” widgets in WordPress to place the opt-in forms, but in this case I decided to put the form smack dab in the middle of the post.
  • I created a custom ”Thank You” page. I don’t have an excuse for not having tried this sooner. I blame my own laziness.
Email Opt-in Form

Pretty amazing how much that draws your attention, right?

Then I wrote an email I would be sending out to people I didn’t know. This is the basic script I used:

Hi [Name],

My name is David Andrew Wiebe, and I am the founder of AS Movies & Games (at http://www.arcticsunburn.com/).

[Say something about their site that you liked or caught your attention].

Just the other week, I published a review of Elysium, and thought your readers might be interested in it. Here is the link: http://www.arcticsunburn.com/elysium

I would really appreciate it if you would share it with your community (on your blog or on your social networks). As we all know, marketing content can be tricky, and I am reaching out to get as much coverage as I can.

By the way, this new post is part of a secret marketing experiment, the results of which I have been documenting and will reveal at http://outsourceblogcontent.com/experiment1 on December 5th.

Should you choose to share this post, and if there’s anything I can do in return, please let me know.

Thanks!

Basically, I used a bit of a curiosity approach to get the attention of the recipient. Then I started making a database of people to contact. This proved more difficult than I thought. There are far too many mainstream review sites out there. I was hoping to find lone bloggers, or perhaps a small collective of them.

Thank You Page

This is the “Thank You” page I put together for those who opted in to receive email notifications.

The first few pages of Google’s search results of the key term movie reviews were laden with big media companies. I started to think I might be going about this all wrong.

So then I decided to search for sites with a review of the movie Elysium. Wait a minute…

Plagiarism!

This is when I discovered something awful. The writer had not written a unique piece at all! They had copied it from another site, and deleted entire sections from it. No wonder it didn’t make sense, but this is not what I had asked or paid for!

Duplicate content can get you penalized in Google, and I definitely wanted to avoid this.

I immediately looked for ways to report this user to Fiverr, which I could not find. However, I did let the writer know that what they were doing was not right.

I knew that plagiarism would be a potential risk with a site like Fiverr, but this was a little annoying (to say the least) this late in the game. Not much I could do now. I had already teased about this marketing experiment as well as the post, so I would have to write it myself after all.

I did get a response from the writer later on, simply saying “I can make this pass Copyscape.” That’s a pretty tall order these days as Google is on the lookout for spun and duplicate content, and in the end that wasn’t really the point. He was supposed to provide unique user generated content. In retrospect, I should have ran the text through Copyscape immediately after getting the post.

Writing

In all, the writing of the new post probably took a little over 60 minutes. I was able to salvage some of the writing from the editing phase, and in the end had an article that was longer than the original. I was also able to express more of my own thoughts in the new post.

I went ahead and edited the scheduled WordPress post, which was now up to 29 revisions because of everything I had changed and added to that point.

Marketing: Part 2

With the new post ready to go, I could finally turn my attention back to marketing. I had most of my content assets in place, but had yet to build a list of people I was going to contact.

Email

My search for Elysium review turned up similar results to the key term movie reviews; large media conglomerates. That rabbit hole wasn’t looking terribly promising either. So, I searched for movie blog. Ah, that’s more like it.

Finally, I was able to build a short list of contacts to send my new update out to. Unfortunately, it was proving tedious, and in many cases I couldn’t find contact information for the blog owners.

Then I came across a post entitled 600 Movie Blogs You Might Have Missed. Hmm… this seems promising.

With the help of this post, I managed to build up my list of contacts to 38, but that’s not great considering how many blogs I sifted through. The list was organized by category, so there were some categories that I skipped over completely, and there were plenty of blogs that either didn’t exist or were not updated anymore.

Contact List

I built my contact list in a Google Drive spreadsheet. Vital information has been blurred out to protect the innocent.

At first, I was surprised by how many movie blogs were out there. The next thing that I was surprised by was how many people were using Blogger or WordPress.com to host their blogs.

In any case, I reached out to my database of 38 contacts and left it at that. Clearly, finding independent movie bloggers was not going to be a walk in the park.

In summary:

  • I sent out 10 emails to friends and family members.
  • I sent 38 emails to blog and site owners.

I also sent a text over to one of my friends instead of an email. I had chatted with him on the phone, and he was game to share the new post with his network.

Illustration

As you probably saw in the marketing checklist, I came up with the idea of putting together a hand-drawn illustration of Max Da Costa, Elysium’s protagonist.

I decided to film the actual drawing of the illustration so I could also put together a time-lapse video for YouTube to promote the new post.

The video didn’t turn out perfect by any means, but I’ve had the idea to do something like this for a long time, and I’m glad that I finally had the chance to experiment with it.

I posted the video to YouTube the same day the post went live, and I also created a new post on the AS Movies & Games blog matching the title of the video.

After digitally coloring the illustration, I also uploaded it to my DeviantArt account. Of course, I added a link to the Elysium review in the description too.

Social Media

First, I loaded up the AS Movies & Games Twitter stream with scheduled tweets to start engaging. This was done in HootSuite. I wasn’t just looking to promote the new post. I wanted to make sure to announce to the world that AS Movies & Games was operational again.

Along with tweets containing links to content on the site, I also pinged our friends at The Doge Pound, and added silly comments to the stream as well. In addition, I teased about the new post in fairly non-descript ways.

Once the post went live, I posted tweets containing the header graphic as well as the illustration I mentioned earlier on Twitter.

From there, I went on a sharing frenzy on all of my social accounts, which I have entirely too many of. I covered the bases as far as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ were concerned. The post and the video were also submitted to StumbleUpon, Pearltrees, Delicious, and Digg. I didn’t bother submitting the post to Reddit (knowing how critical the community can be), but I did submit the video.

When all was said and done, my social counter indicated that the Elysium review had 53 shares. Most of those were me or one of my many social accounts, but at least it gave the appearance that the post was getting some attention.

Video

I had a few videos in the can for AS Movies & Games that I had never posted to the YouTube channel before, so I decided to take this opportunity to edit and upload the content I hadn’t gotten around to using yet.

Again, I started creating posts on the blog with titles matched to the videos. I figured this would be a pretty good way to engage while everyone was waiting for the unveiling of the post you are reading right now.

At this point, I still have more content to upload, and hope to get that done soon. Some videos were really long and took a long time to upload.

Posts

I tried something a little different with the Elysium review and Max Da Costa drawing time-lapse posts on the website. In the Elysium review post, I embedded a Facebook post, and in the time-lapse drawing post, I embedded a Google+ post, just for fun. It doesn’t look like they’ve been engaged with, but cool to know you can do that nevertheless.

Facebook Post Embed

Embedded social media posts could prove valuable to driving more engagement.

Additionally, on Compuxor – which is another Red Flame web property – I made a brief post about the new content that was being published at AS Movies & Games, and linked over to it.

Podcasts

I was planning on releasing a new podcast episode promoting the Elysium review as well as the new experiment. Then, I was going to re-purpose that audio and use it in a video update on the AS Movies & Games YouTube channel. As of this writing, I haven’t actually gotten around to that yet.

However, I did make mention of this experiment on my other long-running podcast, DAWCast: Music Entrepreneurship.

The Results

Where do we begin…? It’s a little hard to estimate the exact impact of an outsourcing and marketing experiment like this one. It’s also hard to know what metrics to track. For now, let’s go strictly with the most prominent numbers.

Perhaps the weirdest thing that has happened since the publishing of the Elysium review has been that the movie review of A Guy Thing has gotten 57 views, making it the 5th most viewed post on the site.

So far I have not been able to come up with any logical reason for this. There have not been any new backlinks to the post, so it seems unlikely that someone mentioned it on their site or social profile.

It isn’t the most shared, or most well-written post on the site either. The only thing I can think is that it’s ranking more highly in search for some reason. I did share it once on the AS Movies & Games Twitter stream, but I doubt that would have done it. Anyway, I slapped an opt-in form on that post too, just in case.

Either way, it didn’t really matter because I didn’t get any signups for the mailing list.

I’m going to continue to keep an eye on the results as I implement a few more things. You will probably see more updates to this post in the near future.

Would I do this again?

I think this is the ultimate question when it comes to figuring out the exact value and ROI on running an experiment like this.

As you can see, what began as an outsourcing experiment pretty quickly turned into an all-out marketing experiment, because that’s where the majority of my time ended up going.

The Elysium review was supposed to have been written by another writer. That part of the project utterly failed. However, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have some fun with this.

It was a lot of work, and even as I put the finishing touches on the first draft of this post, there is still more to do.

However, I didn’t name this experiment #1 for nothing. Experiments are experiments because you don’t know exactly how they are going to turn out.

I look forward to outsourcing more work, seeing what kind of results I can get, and reporting on them in the future. It may be some time until I’m ready to do another experiment, but you can still expect to see weekly posts here on Outsource Blog Content.

Final Thoughts on Our First Outsourcing Experiment

As I write this, it’s barely been five days since the publishing of the Elysium review, and roughly 12 days since I began working on this project. At this point It’s still hard to say exactly what the outcome of this experiment has been. I believe I created some content that has potential long-term value.

So far, I have only seen one email back from my outreach work, and that was from a friend I had pizza with recently. It may be several more days before I start to see social shares or a little link love.

Considering that I didn’t really have any predetermined goals for this project, a 277.78% increase in traffic is pretty impressive. The best part is that it seems to be self-sustaining. There has been a bit of fluctuation (the numbers always seem to be lower on any of my sites early in the week), but overall it seems to be keeping a steady pace.

Although the site hasn’t earned me more than $0.17 in advertising revenue since the publishing of the review, it still validates – at least to me – that it is possible to earn some money from ads. Traffic numbers would have to be significantly higher for it to be really worthwhile, but it’s still cool that my effort yielded some results.

Finally, there is still more work to do, be it promoting this post or uploading more videos to the AS Movies & Games channel. I will continue to update this post with my progress.

Update: January 20, 2015

I am finally nearing the logical end of this experiment.

My to-do list is complete save for one item, and my first stab at selling the Max Da Costa drawing on eBay was not successful. I am debating whether or not to re-list it at this point in time.

Marketing Checklist

You can see how the marketing checklist grew over time.

Posts are rolling out five days a week on AS Movies & Games right now, at least until January 23. Should I choose to promote the Max Da Costa drawing again, I may push for more content, but otherwise the site may remain more or less as-is.

Anyway, let’s take a look at what has happened with the site since this experiment:

  • The Elysium review post has 38 views and 61 shares to date. Despite a lot of shares, it has only been viewed 7 additional times since I originally reported on the results of this experiment.
  • The Elysium – Max Da Costa Drawing Time Lapse post has 16 views and 14 shares to date. Again, not a significant leap.
  • Traffic has become a little harder to measure since I’ve started using StumbleUpon as a traffic source. The original peak in traffic did not last long after December 5, when this post was originally published. I saw a total of 383 visits in December 2014, which was better than any month in 2014, save for May with 387 visits. Since I started using StumbleUpon, I have been seeing an average of 345 visits per day.
  • The Elysium Max Da Costa Drawing Time Lapse video has 30 views to date.
  • The AS Movies & Games Twitter account has 7 new followers.
  • The AS Movies & Games Facebook page has stayed the same.
  • The AS Movies & Games Google+ page was circled by 1 new user.
  • The AS Movies & Games website has produced an additional $0.96 in advertising earnings since December 6.

Although this has been a fun experiment, I believe I may want to leave out the marketing part in the future, as it gave me a lot to follow through on, ultimately with minimal results.

For example, even with all of the emails I sent out, I only got two responses. One was from a friend I had recently chatted with, and the other was a blog owner whose content strategy did not include sharing or linking.

I also had a significant back log of old videos and new videos to upload to the YouTube channel (35 videos in total), and though it has attracted 2 new subscribers and more upload views, nothing has really caught any kind of tracktion.

What I did learn from this experiment was how much traffic you can get from StubleUpon. I had been hearing about that for a long time, but it wasn’t until I started submitting multiple pages at any given time that it began working for me.

Regardless, I will be talking about StumbleUpon in more detail another time.

Ultimately, I hinted at this already, but a more focused approach to this project would have been beneficial. A pre-determined set of goals that went beyond checklists would have been smart.

What do you think? Would you conduct an experiment like this? What would you have done differently?

Let us know in the comments section below!

David Andrew Wiebe

David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, and music instruction. Today, he works as an online marketing strategist and consultant, helping companies create compelling content to develop relationships with their target market.

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